The NRL is back for another season and there are some blockbuster matches in round one, starting with the Storm and the Broncos on Thursday night. Here’s The Wolf’s NRL tips for the opening round of the season. 
Storm v Broncos 
AAMI Park, Thu 14/3, 7.50pm
Storm -3.5 ($1.90)
Cameron Munster first try scorer ($21)
Knights v Sharks
McDonald Jones Stadium, Fri 15/3, 6.00pm
Knights to win ($1.90)
Knights 1-12 ($2.90)
Roosters v Rabbitohs
SCG, Fri 15/3, 7.55pm
Rabbitohs to win ($2.30)
Total points under 37.5 ($1.88)
Warriors v Bulldogs
Mt Smart Stadium, Sat 16/3, 3.00pm
Bulldogs 1-12 ($3.50)
Ken Maumalo first try scorer ($10)
Tigers v Sea Eagles
Leichhardt Oval, Sat 16/3, 5:30pm
Tigers -2.5 ($1.90)
Tigers 13+ ($3.40)
Cowboys v Dragons
1300SMILES Stadium, Sat 16/3, 7.35pm
Dragons to win ($1.95)
Tim Lafai first try scorer ($19)
Panthers v Eels
Panthers Stadium, Sun 17/3, 4.05pm
Panthers 1-12 ($2.90)
Total points under 40.5 ($1.88)
Titans v Raiders
Cbus Super Stadium, Sun 17/3, 6.10pm
Titans to win ($1.85)
Total points over 44.5 ($1.88)

Melbourne Storm ($1.65) v Brisbane Broncos ($2.25)

Storm to continue recent dominance against the Broncos
The Melbourne Storm has a strong recent record against the Brisbane Broncos, with Brisbane’s last win against their interstate rival coming in 2016. Since then, the Storm has won five on the trot, with four of those wins coming by double digits and The Wolf expects that to continue on Thursday night. Jahrome Hughes gets the nod at full back to replace the retired Billy Slater, although he does have experience in the position when he filled in for Slater in 2018. Besides new coach Anthony Seibold, this Broncos team is full of familiar names, with only youngster Tom Flegler set to make his debut off the bench. The Wolf thinks the Storm is being undervalued here and doesn’t expect them to falter in their opening game of the season.

Wolf Facts

  • The Storm have won the last three home games against the Broncos including a 30-0 Prelim win in 2017.
  • The Storm have not lost a Round 1 game since 2001.
  • Master v Apprentice. Since Anthony Seibold was Craig Bellamy’s assistant at the Storm, it is 1 win each in the head coaching stakes. R21 2018 saw Rabbitohs beat the Storm at ANZ 30 – 20. Bellamy got his revenge with the Storm beating the Rabbitohs 29 – 28 in the 2018 Qualifying Final in Melbourne.
Bets: Storm -3.5 ($1.90), Cameron Munster first try scorer ($21)

Newcastle Knights ($1.90) v Cronulla Sharks ($1.90)

Knights to win a close one at home 
Plenty is expected of the Newcastle Knights this season after a number of lean years. Knights coach Nathan Brown has recruited heavily across a number of positions on the ground, but it is the output of his halves Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce that will dictate the clubs fortunes. The Sharks have had an off-season to forget, but welcome former Warrior Shaun Johnson at half back, with his flair sure to dazzle fans at Shark Park. The Wolf knows the Newcastle fans will be up and about for this one and in a coin flip game, the edge is with the home team.

Wolf Facts

  • McDonald Jones Stadium holds no fear for the Sharks. The Sharkies have won their last four matches against the Knights in Newcastle by a combined 110 points.
  • Since 2014, the Sharks have not won a Round 1 match.
  • John Morris starts his first-grade coaching career against the same team he started his first grade playing career. Morris played 31 games for the Knights in 2001-02.
Bets: Knights to win ($1.90), Knights 1-12 ($2.90)

Sydney Roosters ($1.62) v South Sydney Rabbitohs ($2.30)

Bunnies to avenge prelim final loss
The reigning premiers begin their competition defence against one of the 2019 premiership fancies when the Roosters and Rabbitohs meet on Friday night. Souths fell 12-4 in a hard fought preliminary final last season and bring veteran coach Wayne Bennett into the fold for this campaign. Bunnies captain Greg Inglis has been named in the centres, although he could be a late scratch through injury. The Roosters squad has strengthened in the offseason with the additions of Brett Morris and Angus Crichton and they are justified flag favourites at $4.50. The Wolf thinks the Bunnies will be out for revenge on Friday night behind their menacing forward pack and offer good value for an upset win.

Wolf Facts

  • The last time the Roosters played the Rabbitohs at the SCG was in Round 20, 1993. A high scoring game saw the Rabbitohs win 38-20. Boyd Cordner was 1.
  • Since 2014 in Round 1, the Roosters are L,W,L,W,L.
  • The rivalry (hatred) is set to continue when new recruit Angus Crichton runs out in the red, white and blue of the Roosters for the first time against his old club. Crichton had played 5 games against his new club with 1 win and 4 loss.
Bets: Rabbitohs to win ($2.30), Total points under 37.5 ($1.88)

New Zealand Warriors ($1.62) v Canterbury Bulldogs ($2.30)

Dogs to win a cliffhanger
The New Zealand Warriors are fancied to beat the Canterbury Bulldogs in Auckland on Saturday afternoon, despite starting an untried halves combination and new starting hooker. Adam Keighran partners veteran Blake Green in the halves, while Nathaniel Roache gets the nod at hooker. The Dogs backline still looks one or two quality players short, but their forward stocks have been bolstered by the addition of former Rooster Dylan Napa. These two clubs have played plenty of close games in recent times, with their last 8 meetings being decided by 1-12 points. The Wolf thinks it will be another nail biter on Saturday and the field goal kickers might have the final say. Dogs by a whisker.

Wolf Facts

  • The last two games between the Warriors and Bulldogs has seen a field goal kicked. 27-26 win to the Bulldogs in Round 23, 2018 (79th minute field goal to Lachlan Lewis) and 21-14 win to the Warriors in Round 16, 2017.
  • The Bulldogs have only won once in Round 1 since 2014.
  • David Fusitu’a was the NRL’s highest try scorer with 23 tries for the year.
Bets: Bulldogs 1-12 ($3.50), Ken Maumalo first try scorer ($10)

Wests Tigers ($1.67) v Manly Sea Eagles ($2.20)

Tigers should roll Sea Eagles at spiritual home 
Wests will be hoping to build on their ninth-placed finish a season ago and should get the two points against an underwhelming Manly side. The Sea Eagles are without their best player, fullback Tom Trbojevic, who picked up a hamstring injury in their final trial game. Former Rooster and Titan Brendan Elliot comes in as his replacement, while Kane Elgey makes his Manly debut at five-eighth. The Wolf knows the Tigers will be buoyed by a big crowd at Leichhardt Oval and have match up advantages all over the park. Manly’s shocking recent round one record and their league-worst defence from a year ago spells disaster for the club from the Peninsula.

Wolf Facts

  • The Wests Tigers hold a 6 and 2 win/loss ratio against the Sea Eagles at Leichhardt Oval including wins in their last three games.
  • Since 2014, the Tigers are 4 and 1 in Round 1 and the Sea Eagles are 0 and 5.
  • The Sea Eagles had the worst defence of 2018 leaking 25.9 points per game.
Bets: Tigers -2.5 ($1.90), Tigers 13+ ($3.40)

North Queensland Cowboys ($1.85) v St George Illawarra Dragons ($1.95)

Dragons to continue strong round 1 form 
With club champion Johnathan Thurston hanging up the boots at the end of the 2018 season, the Cowboys now embark on a new era. They have recruited heavily to bolster their backline stocks with Jordan Kahu, Tom Opacic and Nene Macdonald all suiting up for the Townsville club for the first time on Saturday night. Joining them from the bench will be Queensland forward Josh McGuire, who adds to an already menacing forward brigade. The Dragons started the 2018 season on fire before fading away late and faltering in the semi finals. They will look to push for a top four berth this season, with Corey Norman getting the nod in the six jersey after being recruited from Parramatta. England international Gareth Widdop moves to fullback and Ben Hunt is retained at half back. The Wolf knows both teams have new players in important positions, but the Dragons have more quality across the park, particularly in their spine, and will prove too strong in this one.

Wolf Facts

  • Expect a high scoring affair. Last year’s 24-10 win to the Dragons in Townsville, 34 points was the lowest amount of points scored between these two sides in Townsville.
  • Both the Cowboys and Dragons have won 4 and lost only once in Round 1 since 2014.
Bets: Dragons to win ($1.95), Tim Lafai first try scorer ($19)

Penrith Panthers ($1.55) v Parramatta Eels ($2.45)

Panthers to edge a close one against inexperienced Eels 
With new coach Ivan Cleary at the helm, the Panthers will be hoping to push for a top four berth after being a fixture in the finals in recent times. It’s a settled Penrith side that’s been named for round one, despite weeks of off-field turmoil at the club. They face an Eels team who had a dismal 2018 season, finishing at the bottom of the table. The only way is up for Brad Arthur’s men, with new five-eighth Dylan Brown expected to shine in his first season. Inexperience litters this Eels lineup, particularly in their spine and The Wolf thinks that could be their undoing in a clash between traditional rivals. Their last seven meetings have been decided by 12 points or under and that’s a trend The Wolf expects to continue on Sunday afternoon, in a game the Panthers should win.

Wolf Facts

  • The last seven games between the Panthers and the Eels has seen an average winning margin of 5.7 points.
  • The Panthers and the Eels played in Round 1 last year for a 24-14 win to the Panthers. The Eels were leading 14-0 after 20 minutes.
  • If the Eels field a side that is expected, they will have one of the youngest spines in the NRL. 1. Clint Gutherson (24). 6. Dylan Brown (18). 7. Mitch Moses (24). 9. Reed Mahoney (20).
Bets: Panthers 1-12 ($2.90), Total points under 40.5 ($1.88)

Gold Coast Titans ($1.80) v Canberra Raiders ($2.20)

Talented Titans to sneak home 
The Gold Coast Titans host the Canberra Raiders in the final game of round one, in a rematch of their opening round clash a season ago. On that night the Raiders raced out to an 18-0 lead after 12 minutes before Titans centre Konrad Hurrell scored late for a 30-28 win. Talented youngster AJ Brimson has been left on the bench by Titans coach Garth Brennan in a curious selection decision, with veteran Michael Gordon given the nod at fullback. Raiders coach Ricky Stuart will be feeling the pressure having only made the finals once in his five years in charge of the green machine. Jack Wighton has shifted from full back to five-eighth, while former Wigan Warriors John Bateman makes his debut in the second row. The Wolf thinks this game could go either way, with the Titans’ flair off an interchange bench featuring Brimson and Bryce Cartwright to be the difference in a high scoring match.

Wolf Facts

  • The Titans and the Raiders on average score a combined 48 points per game.
  • The Titans beat the Raiders 30-28 last year in Round 1 with a 79th try to Konrad Hurrell and successful conversion to Michael Gordon.
  • The Raiders lead 24-6 at the 35th minute mark. – Can the Raiders play a full 80 mins in 2019? In 2018, 8 games were lost by 4 points or less.
Bets: Titans to win ($1.80), Total points over 44.5 ($1.88)

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